What It Really Takes to Be a Successful Interior Designer

Decorating shows and glossy magazines make interior design look fun, glamorous and creative.

However, being a decorator is also hard work reliant on so much more than a good eye and a dose of talent. Still, with the right attitude and approach, you too can make tracks in this lucrative and competitive industry just ask Kate Abdou.

Kate is a passionate, hunting and gathering interior designer and decorator based in Sydney. She is the founder of Designer Man Cave, specialising in masculine home interiors. An expert in the men's lifestyle arena, Kate is also the founder of Man Mail, an online store of quality gifts for men. So when she is not designing interiors for men, she is boxing up stylish gift boxes for them.

Open Colleges put her in the hot seat to garner her leading industry tips.

What makes a successful interior designer?

A designer who has a natural creative flair and love for interiors, high attention to detail, organisational skills, problem solving skills (a VERY important one) and professionalism. At the end of the day though, the most important thing is to deliver well designed interiors to (happy) clients, time and time again.

What common mistakes do emerging interior designers make?

I think a common mistake is to over promise from the beginning. Telling a client what they want to hear and working to unrealistic time lines and budgets is never going to end well. Part of being an interior designer is to educate and guide your client through the process based on your product, contractor and service experience. If they knew what they were doing, they would do it themselves! I find clients appreciate honesty and one should never commit to something they know is impossible and will have them tearing out their hair to try and make it happen!

What is the best way to grow your client base?

Social media is key - having open and transparent platforms that show people who you are and what you do is a great selling tool. It's a big decision to engage a designer, so the more people know about you and your style, the more likely they are to feel comfortable to reach out and make an enquiry. My website has been a great tool for me over the years. This allows me to blog and build a database of people who are interested in what I do.

What is your approach to working with difficult clients?

Where ever possible now, I try not to! I know fairly quickly once meeting someone, if working with them is a good fit for me and them. Trust your intuition. It's a very personal job, so it's important that both your personalities work well together. On the occasions where I've had difficult clients in the past, it's really important to be as detailed as possible with all your communication and scope of works, so everyone involved is very clear about the job being undertaken.

What study did you have to do? How did you get to be where you are?

I did a Diploma of Interior Design and Decoration at the Design Centre Enmore where I studied for 4 years part time. I went to classes at night and worked full time during the day. It was a very intense 4 years, but I would do it all over again! During my time studying, I made a big effort to work across the industry (architectural, property development, furniture retail, TV production...) in a variety of roles. While studying, I also had the opportunity to start freelancing. From there, I continued to work for other people, until the time came to run my business full time. It was a leap of faith and the hard work still continues to this day. There is so much motivation and drive required, so it's really important to love what you do.

Follow these tips to go beyond the basics and become a strong, successful interior decorator well poised to be a leader in your field. Find out more about what it means to start a career in interior design.

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Alina Berdichevsky

Alina Berdichevsky

Is a writer, communications consultant, brand lover, cultural excavator and an expert on strategic achievement. Alina has delivered strategic content and digital solutions for a variety of organisations across numerous sectors including fashion, business, luxury and not-for-profit. She has a clear understanding of the power of search optimisation and extensive experience in promoting culture, lifestyle and fashion-centered content.

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